February 17, 2011

Outfoxing Obama on Spending Cuts

Since the President has decided to use tricks like a five year freeze on increases in non-defense discretionary spending as a way to talk about saving hundreds of billions of dollars over the next five years, the Republicans are in a tricky situation trying to initiate real cuts that the Democrats will brand as draconian  by comparison.  But there is a way Republicans can accomplish bigger cuts using the same sort of tricks that Democrats do.  While it is political as opposed to practical, a successful role back of this progressivist agenda will require political solutions as well as practical solutions and if there is a way to accomplish both, then why not.

The solution to creating bigger numbers in the cut back dollar war is to use President Obama's so called cuts as the baseline and then any cuts the Republicans want to accomplish beyond that would be added to that number.  For example, if Obama's budget is to save $400 billion, then by cancelling the high speed rail costs that the President wants to spend, would bring the total savings up to $453 billion.  This is the sort of accounting trick the Democrats use all the time to get their talking points out there.  This way the Republican cut back numbers would end up looking very large indeed.  That ends up looking impressive to those who are only marginally paying attention but and may help voters who want seriousness in spending cuts.  Meanwhile, it does not take away from the fact that real spending cuts will be included in the numbers.  Those of us truly concerned about government spending cuts, the accounting trick will be transparent but if real cuts are included it won't matter.

It may make negotiating with Democrats more difficult because they will go ballistic on the seemingly even more draconian numbers. On the other hand, it makes it hard for the President to argue against the plan in its entirety because there will be his 'cuts' included in it.  He will be forced to say that some of it makes sense or else be exposed to Republicans countering that many of the cuts seemed fine when he proposed them .  In the end that may make negotiation easier.  In fact, it may lend itself to a more open discussion on entitlement spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

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